Asked about his experience of playing mbira, Forward Kwenda says:
“When I pick up my mbira, I don’t know what is going to happen. The music just goes by itself, taking me higher and higher until I can end up crying because the music is so much greater than a human being can understand.” and “I just have to get out of the way so spirits can make my mbira play.”
Recordings Available From MBIRA
Use the links and listen to samples of Forward Kwenda’s albums.
- 3457 Forward Kwenda 2006 (Bass Nemakonde tuning)
- 3419 Spirit Power – Forward Kwenda 2002 (Gandanga/Mavembe tuning)
- 3418 Forward Kwenda – Dambatsoko Tuning 2002
- 3415 Forward Kwenda & Erica Azim Live at Freight & Salvage 25 April 2002
- 3405 Nemakonde Through the Night – Forward Kwenda 2002
- 3401 Nighttime Nemakonde – Forward Kwenda 2001
- 3400 Chakwi – Forward Kwenda 2001 (Nyamaropa tuning)
- 3349 Forward Kwenda & Erica Azim at Freight & Salvage 18 February 2001
- 3309 Katsanzaira Tuning Collection – Forward Kwenda 2000
- 3276 Mahororo & More: Forward Kwenda 23 April 2000
- 3275 Forward Kwenda & Erica Azim: 1999 House Concert in Berkeley
- 3269 Forward Kwenda at Mbizi Game Park 30 April 1999: Nyamaropa & Nemakonde Tuning Mbira & Vocals
- 3254 Forward Kwenda 29 July 1998: Mavembe/Gandanga Tuning Mbira
- 3219 Forward Kwenda 8-9 January 1997: Mavembe Tuning Mbira
- 3214 Tadzungaira yepasi – Forward Kwenda 1997 (Nyamaropa tuning)
- 3213 Tadzungaira: A Prayer to End All Suffering – Forward Kwenda 1996-7 (Gandanga/Mavembe tuning)
- 3200 Forward Kwenda on a Mountain at Sunset 15 April 1996: Mavembe tuning Mbira & Vocals
- 3112 Forward Kwenda & Christopher Doubt Chaitezvi: Mavembe Tuning Mbira 17 February 1994
- 3111 Forward Kwenda & Erica Azim 11 February 1994
- 3052 Tute & Garadziva Chigamba & Forward Kwenda: Gandanga (Mavembe) tuning 12 April 1986
- 3019 Forward Kwenda & Erica Azim: First Meeting 6 & 11 February 1991
- 3013 Forward Kwenda Solo 5 February 1991: Mavembe Tuning Mbira & Vocals
- 1004 Trance 3
- 1002 Svikiro: Meditations of an Mbira Master – Forward Kwenda (with Erica Azim)
Forward Kwenda was born 5 April 1963 in the rural Buhera area of Zimbabwe, an area known for its fierce resistance to colonial rulers and respect for Shona tradition. As a young boy, Forward excelled in traditional dance and recitation of ancient poetry. At the age of 10, he began to play ngoma (drums) and hosho (gourd rattles) for his mother’s gombwe (rain-making) spirit. He was given the name “Forward” because of his curiosity about many subjects, enthusiastic involvement in many activities and his singing for liberation war freedom fighters.
“The Coltrane of Mbira”
By 1985, Forward was playing in a unusually complex style – much to the amazement of master mbira players two and three generations his senior. This style was first recorded in 1985 and 1986 by his American friend Glenn Makuna, who dubbed Kwenda “the Coltrane of mbira.” Some of those early recordings have been released as MBIRA albums. Kwenda also recorded several 45 rpm singles in Zimbabwe during the 1980’s, playing a less complex style.
Later, Erica Azim and friends recorded Kwenda extensively, from 1991 through 2006. Some of Kwenda’s mbira partners during the early and mid- 1990’s included Christopher ‘Doubt’ Chaitezvi, Pasvillias Tandi, and ‘Samaita’ Vitalis Botsa…musicians playing a similar style to Kwenda.
In 1997, Kwenda toured the US with Erica Azim, and they recorded the CD Svikiro: Meditations of an Mbira Master on the Shanachie label. In 1999, Azim’s 1996 field recording of Kwenda on a Zimbabwean mountaintop at sunset was included on Ellipsis Arts’ Trance 3 CD. In February 2000, Kwenda performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC with Erica Azim, and they toured the US during 2000, 2001 and 2002. Kwenda has continued to tour internationally, including Japan.